Warriors on the streets: Combat veterans becoming cops

An abundance of miscalculated complexities regarding our warriors’ return home from their service overseas have become more visible lately, particularly in the so-called “mainstream” press. Among those issues most important to law enforcement are the desire of returning veterans to seek out stateside employment, the ability of police academies to facilitate future cadet transformation, and the potential threat that combat-trained gang members pose to society.

Projected timeline and numbers for U.S. troops departing Iraq, and the probable impact on LE
The Obama administration has stated the drawdown from Iraq will begin this year with the departure of two brigades—or roughly 10,000 troops. The majority of forces still residing throughout Iraq would remain on station until sometime after the upcoming December elections. According to the GAO, U.S. Forces are to be completely removed from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Presently there are an estimated 283 U.S. military installations in Iraq. President Obama has stated all “combat” troops will depart Iraq by the end of August in 2010, leaving a force of roughly 35,000 to 50,000 until the end of the following year. The police community needs to initiate a plan now. Roughly 128,000 troops remaining in Iraq after the initial draw down will have to depart within a sandwiched six month window next year.

The cost of this effort will be substantial. While many troops will re-deploy to other terrorist-occupied regions of the world, many will not.

Law Enforcement agencies throughout the United States should expect to see a significant increase in job applications stemming from service members seeking stateside employment.

Upon returning, many service members will elect to withdraw from the armed forces for numerous reasons. Service members have been tested both physically and emotionally in battle, but many have not yet been tested “financially.” While service pay may not be the greatest, it is guaranteed on the 1st and the 15th of every month. Our present economic crisis will only further facilitate the combat veteran’s aggressive job search with many trying to transition back into the professional community.

Make no mistake about it, the mission abroad has changed and continues to change. Soldiers who were once expected to perform in an active combat capacity are now being task with additional “community policing” roles and responsibilities.

There will be a period of adjustment for these combat veterans. Often the combat veteran’s road to recovery will be a daunting task with difficulties originating from feelings of being lost, no longer belonging to a team or simply failing to mesh with mainstream society.

The professional communities (and by that I mean State and Local Law Enforcement, EMT, fire fighter and other first responder organizations) provide an avenue for the veteran to re-acquire some of their past routines. Military personnel tend to look approvingly at the job that consists of wearing a uniform, receiving consistent pay, being surrounded by team-orientated professionals, and working in a capacity that exemplifies the selfless commitment that impacts society in a positive way. All of the above mentioned attributes can help future combat veterans as they work to re-adjust back into mainstream society.

It should be well understood that what’s called “community policing” throughout the war-torn streets of Baghdad is significantly different than community policing stateside. There are several areas surrounding deadly force encounters abroad that will need to be intensely scrutinized to better understand how blanket policies have cultured the service member’s ability to appropriately articulate their actions prior to any employment within a stateside law enforcement agency.

The good news is many of our warriors are returning home with field-tested skills, increased tactical capabilities, and mental toughness. The concern will be the level of acceptable application and psychological stability.

For the first time, police trainers may find themselves lecturing to a “novice” cadet audience that in reality is comprised of seasoned warriors. These newly assigned cadets may be novice in relation to police work but, are highly experienced in relation to hostile gun fire and tactical formations that possess the required mental fortitude to survive in a world of chaos. The above mentioned professional character traits are all highly uncommon among newly assigned cadets.

Police management who elect to seek out these combat veterans to maximize their overall potential and increased capability among their respective agencies will flourish. They will have to pay very close attention to the paradigm shift at the cadet level.

Management must prepare now to seek out fellow police officers who may have enlisted or reactivated in the Armed Forces and who are familiar with current operations abroad. These unique professionals can bring the required levels of comprehension from both sides of the house. This “first person” perspective cannot simply be acquired through articles, lectures or multi-media presentations.

Management must have a continuously evolving plan that provides a better medium for understanding of these similar yet highly diverse cadets.

In coming weeks I’ll be back with another article that addresses the need to facilitate the cadet transformation. I’ll address the following areas of concern:

• Rules of Engagement vs. Levels of Force
• Psychological Testing and Post Traumatic Stress
• Deadly Force Justification
• The Cadet Cultural Transformation


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